Monday, February 4, 2008

A democracy of content.

In my first post to this blog, I wrote about how unique video games are compared to movies/TV etc because of the active participation games seek from the player. I was feeling pretty smart about how well positioned games are to tap into the generation of people growing up that want to engage with their entertainment in a more user-driven way.

Well a day later I read this article by Mike Elgan about cell-phone novels and it got me thinking about how other 'old media' entertainment mediums are adapting to meet the demands of this audience.

Turns out games are not so unique after all.

User generated content and a democratization of the content creation landscape, is bringing about a sea change in every industry and absolutely has to be factored into your dreams of creating that brand new, hit IP.

As intoxicating as the thought of being that single auteur is, we are moving from old school autocratic storytelling towards finding ways to involve the audience in a much more participatory way. This is happening in many creative ways.

Some shoot from the hip examples that have facilitated huge cultural shifts in our global landscape -

Blogosphere - Every successful blog has a comments section that allows the reader to participate in the debate, not be a passive observer. Everyone can generate an opinion and guide the debate!
News - digg allows users to select which news story is important and should be shared with a wider audience.
Social Networking - Facebook, MySpace allow people to create their own social space and community. This is a huge time suck!
Mashups - Popular on Youtube. I'll also pimp create your own Star Wars mashup here.
Novels - cell-phone novels democratize writing. Also services like createspace allow people to self-publish books, movies, music.
Music - I want to mention hip hop here as an early example of how technology facilitated user content in a way that changed a whole industry. But I love hip hop so much I'm going to leave it for a bigger post at a later date!

UPDATE: To read something far more eloquent than my scattered thoughts on this subject, check out ninja creative and eloquent transmedia spokesperson Jesse Alexander's post on the Spiderwick Chronicles. Jesse is out in front on all this stuff.... I no doubt subconsciously picked up thought patterns on this topic from his blog dammit!

So what am I taking away from my thoughts on this? This doesn't spell doom for those of us who have stories to tell. People will always need a campfire to rally around at night, with a storyteller (or group of storytellers) to provide the core outline and capture the imagination of the audience. But those stories absolutely should go that extra step further and provide the engaged audience with tools to take our worlds and ideas, and have their own fun with it.

The results will be surprising and often times awesome!

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